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Charlotte Immigrant Gets Deportation Delay, Pins Hopes on Congress

A 22-year old Charlotte man facing deportation to Mexico was given a two-month reprieve by an immigration judge yesterday. Erick Velazquillo (pictured, left) has become the face of immigration rights activists in North Carolina who are pushing for Congress to pass the DREAM Act. Velazquillo's case is just one of many that pass through Charlotte's immigration court. But most illegal immigrants trying to avoid deportation keep their legal troubles quiet. Velazquillo, by contrast, has enlisted a group of outspoken activists who have gathered hundreds of signatures in his support, held vigils and came to court wearing t-shirts that said "Undocumented and Unafraid." Velazquillo himself is rather shy. The public battle he's waging puts his parents at risk, since they're illegal immigrants too. But he says the publicity makes him less afraid - not more "Actually, I feel a lot more safer by my situation coming out," said Velazquillo. "I hope that more people who are in my situation come out so they can listen to our stories and understand where we come from and why the situation needs to be addressed." Velazquillo has pinned his hopes on Congress enacting legislation known as The DREAM Act making it easier for young illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they attend college or join the military. Velazquillo came to the U.S. when he was two. He graduated from South Meck High School, attended CPCC and has been accepted to UNC Charlotte. He avoided detection until last October when he was arrested for driving without a valid license. Jail officials notified immigration authorities who began deportation proceedings for Velazquillo. But in June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement instructed local agents to start using discretion in prosecuting young immigrants who don't have criminal records, are seeking college degrees and have lived most of their lives in the states. Velazquillo's attorney Janeen Hicks Pierre (pictured, right) has petitioned ICE to delay his deportation for two years. "This is the only home he's ever known, so if they could exercise a bit of discretion in this case until hopefully the DREAM Act becomes law," said Hicks Pierre. A Charlotte immigration judge was scheduled to rule on Velazquillo's deportation yesterday, but agreed to wait until September 6th, so federal authorities will have time to respond. If Velazquillo is granted a two-year reprieve, he'll enroll at UNC Charlotte and his supporters will continuing pushing for passage of the Dream ACT. If not, he'll likely be deported to Mexico.